Review: Elephant Man at Chautauqua Playhouse
When Bernard Pomerance wrote his 1977 play The Elephant Man about a severely deformed man rescued by a young doctor from a life of freak-show derision, he specified that no special makeup or prosthetics be used to create the character.
It is a theatrical challenge that has tempted many well-known actors, including Philip Anglim, David Bowie, John Hurt and Bradley Cooper. In this Chautauqua Playhouse production, that difficult role is played by Mark Kirshnir, who transforms from handsome actor to deformed “monster” through sheer art: body language and attitude.
The Elephant Man tells the story of an Elizabethan-era man named Joseph Merrick (called John Merrick in the play), who is discovered in a freak show (after a life of workhouses and abuse) by a young London doctor, Frederic Treves (Tim Yancey), and rescued for medical study—for a fee to the “exhibitor.”
The remainder of the play reveals the depth of Merrick’s pain and suffering as well as his inner beauty that few took the time to find.
John Walck, an actor himself, directs the play with sympathy and understanding, making excellent use, too, of the very functional set designed by Rodger Hoopman and the effective lighting (Andrew Fiffick) and sound (Walck and Warren Harrison) design of the production staff.